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Deputy Joe Carey (FG) has admitted the response of the Government and HSE in dealing with COVID-19 nursing homes was too slow and maintained the framework for Government compiled by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil offers the change the Irish electorate voted for.

A TD since 2007, Carey is now the longest-serving of Clare’s present Dáil representatives. Speaking to The Clare Echo, he stated that he was satisfied with the amount of detail being circulated from the Department of Health surrounding confirmed and recovered COVID-19 cases. “Typically it is a disease that does affect the old and the sick with underlying medical conditions, in the main it doesn’t affect younger people to the same extent or people in their full health. It is important that we would be given that information. These people are up to their eyes in work trying to fight the pandemic, that information will be given at some stage”.

As a virus which has a bigger impact on vulnerable members of society, Deputy Carey was asked why little supports were put in place for nursing homes at the beginning of March. “There are issues in relation to nursing homes, the Government has worked with the HSE to provide the necessary PPE and a new package of supports, advice and staffing. I’ve received representations in relation to that. We were slow to deal with this issue but we are now in a position where those supports are being delivered on the ground in nursing homes. It is unfortunate that it did take a period of time for that to happen”.

During the pandemic, the Clarecastle native has been involved in the repatriation of Clare citizens abroad. Being the only Fine Gael TD in the county, he said his workload had increased. Comments from fellow TD, Violet-Anne Wynne calling his former colleague Pat Breen “Prat Breen” were described by Carey as “very petty”.

Carey told The Clare Echo that he had no issue with the return of staff from the disbanded Strategic Communications Unit to filter out information during the pandemic. He said John Concannon who headed the Unit “is a good communicator. I don’t see any problem with him getting involved in communicating to the public on behalf of Government. At this particular moment in time, we need proper, clear communications with the public and I understand the need for that”.

He has backed both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil coming together to form a coalition with a smaller party such as The Greens, The Social Democrats or The Labour Party. “A framework document has been put together, it’s very progressive, there are ten different missions in that including the introducing of a new economy, we need to reboot and remodel it, we need a new economic plan for the country centred around capital investment, building schools and roads. It’s across every sector, health and housing and it does in my view reflect that yearn for change that was advocated for in the election. It is a massive change getting both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the one administration, it does represent a lot of change”.

Although he noted that it was at an early stage, Joe expressed his desire to become a Minister in the next Cabinet. “I’ve served an apprenticeship, I’ve four elections under my belt, I have ambitions to be a Minister, that may or may not happen. I don’t want to jump any guns, there is no Government formed but I’ve put myself in a position to be considered. I have worked as Chairman of the Joint Oireacthas Committee on Rural and Community Development”.

State supports will be needed for the aviation industry post COVID-19, Carey maintained and highlighted the need for Shannon Airport to be looked after. “We need to get these routes re-established as quickly as possible, there should be a state involvement in that particularly because of the involvement of Shannon and the role it plays in delivering balanced development for the entire country,” he added of routes to Paris, Barcelona and Vienna announced last year.

For sport to return in 2020, the Fine Gael TD said that “a rapid testing system” is needed, the date of which such infrastructure would be in place remains uncertain. “What is very clear is that this virus is very contagious and it spreads so quickly, we do have to be very conscious of it being there and in the community and that social distancing does work and it does slow the spread. That does have a knock-on effect on our sport whether it’s ladies football, soccer, hurling, rugby or whatever. The medical people guiding us through this pandemic I’d look to them to advise on how best we can navigate around the issues that are there and will be there.

“If you look across the water, I’m a Liverpool supporter, we’re waiting for that to recommence and you’re talking about 30 years waiting for this trophy to be won and you’re wondering what’s going to happen there but money talks over there and you’re looking at running it off behind closed doors. We in Ireland can learn from the sporting approaches in different countries, in horse racing it went on behind closed doors prior to the shutdown, equally so the greyhounds, you may be in a position after the 5th of May because it was done already to use the same approach when those restrictions are lifted. Sport is a massive part of our lives, it is something that you really miss in these dark days,” Carey concluded.


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